McNair Program

Biography of Dr. Ronald E. McNair

Dr. Ronald E. McNair was born on October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. He received his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in Physics from North Carolina A & T State University in 1971. Five years later he earned a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. McNair was nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics and received many honorary degrees, fellowships and commendations. However, his achievements were not limited to academia. He was a sixth degree black belt and an accomplished saxophonist. Dr. McNair and his wife, Cheryl Moore, had two children, Reginald and Joy.

In 1978, Dr. McNair was selected for the NASA space program and he was the second African-American to fly to space. His life ended tragically on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger space shuttle exploded, taking the life of Dr. McNair and six other astronauts, including Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher to fly to space.